Most Americans can identify the Marquis de La Fayette as a dashing young French aristocrat and soldier who joined General Washington’s army to fight for American liberty from British rule in the American Revolutionary War. Many know how La Fayette passionately beseeched his king, King Louis XV, to support the American colonials’ bid for freedom from autocratic rule. Yet, was this story so simple? How could it be that La Fayette could persuade the French king to support a popular revolt against the British king?
The Pursuit of Power
The great kingdoms of Europe were formed by the victorious houses (families) of tribes of humans who fought with each other for control of people, land, and resources (power) for more than a millennium. The King of the House of Bourbon sat upon the throne of France during the time of the American Revolution. He had invested most of his power into the French army, as the French kings before him had done. Thus, France had an advantage if conflict (war) came in the form of land campaigns. However, France’s principal rival, Britain, an island realm, had the advantage when war was fought on the seas and oceans, since the Kings of Britain understood that their best protection was to keep armies from landing on British soil. As European kingdoms
grew, wars became the means to expand territory. Arranged marriages became the means to encourage alliances. By 1776, many of the European houses were led by people who had the DNA of other European houses flowing in their veins. But, there was no guarantee that familial relationships would forestall war. In fact, all of the kings seemed to understand what Carl Von Clausewitz, a Prussian general and military theorist, (who was not yet born in 1776) would say: War is an extension of policies (politics). In other words, war was political maneuvering by kings through the use of weapons when diplomacy fell short of meeting strategic objectives.
Discovery of the World
Marco Polo, Vasco de Gama, and Christopher Columbus were three most notable explorers who opened up the greater world to the European kings and their quest for power. The spices of the orient, the riches of India, the manpower of Africa, and the agricultural space and precious metals of the Americas drew the European kings onto a worldwide scene to compete on a grand scale. Those who could not compete and win would be crushed by those kingdoms that did win. By 1776, it was clear who would win, the kingdom that controlled the seas! Even though Spain got to the Orient, India, and the Americas first, and was the first to exploit the fabulous silver and gold of South America, the riches had to flow back to Spain by seas and oceans. Great Britain’s naval might was supreme. The British could take, tax, or sink what Spain or the other European kings had claimed. That is why France, Spain, and the Dutch tended to ally when Britain threatened any one of them. King Louis XV did not want to react to what Britain did. So, he employed the Marquis de Ruffec, his trusted diplomat, in a hidden role, as his Chief of the Secret du Roi.
The Secret du Roi
French King Louis XV split his diplomatic service staff. Diplomats were expected to represent their kings overtly in the courts of other kings. Yet, some of the French King’s diplomats were secretly employed to pursue the strategic objectives of France by other means, including subversion, sabotage, usury, bribery, and even trickery of French citizens. These were unsavory tactics that were ways and means to advance the power of the King of France without their being linked to him. That is why Americans have not heard of the Marquis de Ruffec or the Secret du Roi. De Ruffec tricked the Marquis de La Fayette into throwing his heart and soul into helping the American colonials to revolt against Great Britain!
What was the Name of That War?
Americans call it The American War of Independence. Britain refers to the same war as a colonial revolt that occurred while they fought a world war with the French, the Spanish, the Dutch, and the Marathas and Mysore (in India). It was the job of The Secret du Roi to extend politics into the practice of war. The French had no great interest in Britain’s American colonies. They did have interests in India, in the islands of the Caribbean Sea, and in protecting France from invasion from across the English Channel. Thus, The Marquis de Ruffec was empowered to employ a tactic to ensnare an aristocratic citizen of France who was known to be the latest edition to a hot-blooded, even reckless family, Gilbert du Motier, aka The Marquis de La Fayette. The trick was that de Ruffec invited La Fayette to attend a dinner party in which he also invited an outspoken member of the British royal family, the Duke of Gloucester (British King George III’s brother). Since France was not presently at war with Britain, it was common for diplomats from the two countries to dine and debate. At the dinner table, de Ruffec encouraged the Duke to explain what the colonials were about. The Duke’s words inflamed the young de La Fayette! More importantly, de La Fayette was convinced that the colonials were justified in their revolt. After the dinner, de Ruffec offered to help de La Fayette get an audience before the king, to express his views about the subject. Then, de Ruffec worked secretly with King Louis XV to craft how to use de La Fayette as an instrument of national power to cause the British to tie down the maximum possible land and naval forces in the American colonial theater of operations. After all, war must come between France and Britain again, since war was but an extension of politics. The Marquis de Ruffec was a world shaper.